What Readers Want

Time and time again you’re told to identify your reader, to write what your reader wants to read. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could look into a crystal ball and find the perfect reader for your book? crystal ball by Jeffrey Beall

Have you tried to research what the reader wants? An internet search will give you more than 29 million results! Are that that many things readers want? Yes and no. The things readers want are greater than the number of readers. So what’s a writer to do?

Learn the basics.

1. We are born storytellers. Our sense, or need for, story is inborn. Need proof? How about 40,000+ year old cave paintings? How about the questions we ask? How was your day? Did you see the whopper I caught? Did you hear the whopper I told?

2. Learn about the psychology of story.

3. Learn what a story is.

Tell your best story.

1. Understand that your job as a writer is to tell a story about a character who wants something desperately and to make her struggle to achieve that goal.  If there is no struggle, no obstacles, no opposition, there is no story.

2. Learn how to craft a story, There is tons of advice out there on the wild web. Don’t just go with web learning. Find books by authors whose stories you love. I have a list of resources here.

3. Hone your craft. Learn to write a scene.

Learn who your readers are.

1. If you don’t have a mailing list or anything in print yet, look at your own reading habits. Pick one of your favorite books and look it up on Amazon. Look through the reviews for that book. What did the reviewers love? What did they hate?

If you’ve already got books out you can do several things.

Mine your mailing list. What can you learn from the names and addresses? What can you learn from comments left on your blog or emailed to you?

Use tools like the ones this post suggests.

Interview your readers. Or, look at the reviews you’ve gotten. Did your readers love your characters but think your setting was weak? Did your readers love the secondary characters? What did they not like? Careful with this one, you’re not looking for negative reviews, you’re looking for what your readers didn’t like or wanted to see more of.

2. Know the genre of your story. But my book is a blend of several genres you say. Sorry, you have to pick one that is your primary genre. Why? Because when you go to buy a breakfast food at the grocery you don’t go to the this-and-that aisle. You go to the meat section or the cereal aisle, then you make a selection. So you choose one primary genre and you make certain the obligatory scenes for that genre are present. Help your readers find your story.

Can’t decide which genre is your primary? Go to Amazon or other book sellers and look at the descriptions of books that are like yours. What’s the genre? Still can’t decide? Get a refresher on the basic genres and try again.

3. Study the bestsellers lists. No, don’t follow the trend. Read the best sellers in your genre. Figure out why readers love those books. Don’t copy the books, but take the elements that make them popular and use those elements in your own fiction.

Refine. Refine. Refine.

1. Improve your craft. Always. Get feedback from peers and professionals. Learn more about the craft.

2. Practice. Practice. Practice.

3. Listen to your readers. Always. That doesn’t mean give them exactly what they say they want, it means listen. Honor them by writing the best story you can with the elements that they love.

There are hundreds and thousands more references available to you. Reach out. Search for them. Get to know your readers. Your readers will thank you.

To help us all get to know readers better, I am running a series of Reader Interviews (with a tip of the hat to the Actor’s Studio). These aren’t limited to my readers. I’ve asked friends, family, anyone who reads to take part in this. Please help me thank them for their time and candid answers by reading and commenting. Look for the first in that series next week.

 

Image courtesy of Jeffrey Beall via Flickr.com

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